UPDATE: New Details Emerge About Death of Mississippi Gay Mayoral Candidate
This Jan. 20, 2007 photo (right)) shows Marco McMillian, 34, a candidate for mayor of Clarksdale, Miss., who was found dead on the Mississippi River levee Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013 between Sherard and Rena Lara, Miss. (SOURCE: AP Photo/The Clarksdale Press Register, Troy Catchings)
New details released about the death of Marco McMillian, an openly gay candidate for mayor of Clarksdale, Miss., have caused some to call for the FBI and the U.S. Department of Justice to take action.
According to a statement released by his family on Monday, McMillian was beaten, dragged and set on fire, before being discovered on the bank of the Mississippi River last Wednesday. His family also revealed that McMillian was concerned for his safety in the weeks before his murder.
“We feel that this was not a random act of violence based on the condition of the body when it was found,” his family said in the statement.
Individuals and organizations across the country have joined his family’s call for a thorough investigation into the murder, which Coahoma County authorities believe was committed by Lawrence Reed, 22. Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) asked for the FBI to review the circumstances and evidence in McMillian’s murder. Though not yet directly involved with the case, the FBI said on Wednesday that they are “aware of the case” and “will assess evidence to determine whether federal prosecution is appropriate.”
The National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC) asked that the U.S. Department of Justice’s Community Relations Service (CRS) and Civil Rights division investigate the murder as well.
“The conflicting reports as well as the current racial and anti-LGBT climate in Mississippi is justification enough for a federal investigation…Whether on the basis of race or sexual orientation, hate is hate. If there is the possibility that McMillian was murdered because of who he is, that warrants the Department of Justice’s involvement,” the NBJC Executive Director and CEO, Sharon Lettman-Hicks, wrote in a letter to the U.S. Attorney General, Eric Holder.
While much of the details surrounding McMillian’s death remain unclear, there seems to be a growing call for a thorough investigation into the crime. However, if deemed necessary, local and state officials would have to seek assistance from federal agencies to pursue a federal hate crime, as Mississippi’s hate-crime law does not cover sexual orientation.
Christine Dickason is a Communications Intern with Campus Progress. You can follow her on Twitter @cdickason11.